BAGUIO City Mayor Mauricio Domogan said they will appeal the Commission on Audit (COA) decision disallowing the Cost of Living Allowance (Cola) distributed to city officials and employees in 2008.
The chief executive said they will employ every legal remedy available to resolve the issue.
However, Domogan and city legal officer Melchor Rabanes said no official copy of the COA decision has been sent to the city yet.
“Once we get an official copy of the decision, the city legal team will study and appeal,” Domogan said.
COA Decision number 2018-432, issued on December 21, 2018, denied the petition for review filed by the city through Domogan in 2014 for the almost two-decade case involving the release of over P63 million of Cola for employees during the administration of former mayor Peter Rey Bautista.
The decision, signed by COA Chairperson Michael Aguinaldo and Commissioners, Jose Fabia and Roland Pondoc, found Bautista and Antonio Tabin liable.
COA ruled that the city government employees, who “were mere passive recipients of Cola, need not refund the benefits they received.”
Bautista was then mayor when the Cola was released to officials and employees of Baguio City.
The Sangguniang Panlungsod of Baguio through Resolution No. 222, series of 2008 passed on May 26, 2008 authorized the release of Cola, amelioration allowance, and equity allowance to the city’s officials and employees amounting to P59.774 million. A supplemental budget brought the amount released to P63.719 million.
The COA on February 9, 2009, with the Audit Team Leader (ATL) and the Supervising Auditor (SA) of the city, questioned the legality of the disbursement of Cola due to lack of appropriation and for being violative of Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Local Budget Circular.
Bautista filed his appeal on February 25, 2010 and a COA decision was issued in March 2015 and served to the Office of incumbent Domogan on March 17, 2015.
The case has dragged on to this day.
The COA argued issues of the case to be; Whether or not the city has legal basis to grant COLA to its officials and employees. Whether or not the officials and employees who received the COLA in good faith are liable to settle the disallowed amount. Whether or not Decision No. 2015-004-A was validly issued by the RD, COA-CAR and Whether or not ND No. 2009-001-100(2008)-A was validly issued by the Audit Team Leader (ATL) and the Supervising Auditor (SA) of the city.
Bautista maintains the issuances were done in accordance to the law and in good faith, adding the move was done for the concern and welfare of employees.
Bautista said the decision to grant the Cola was discussed by a finance committee and approved by the city council.
Members of the city council then were Rocky Tomas Balisong, Daniel Fariñas, Betty Lourdes Tabanda, Perlita Chan Rondez, Nicasio Aliping Jr, Antonio Tabora Jr, Erdolfo Balajadia, Nicasio Palaganas, Isabelo Cosalan Jr, Richard Cariño, Fred Bagbagen, Elaine Sembrano, Joel Alangsab, Gloria Isabel de Vera, and Gal Weygan.
Bautista questioned the timing of the release of the COA decision since the midterm elections are less than two months away and he is seeking the lone congressional seat in the city.
Bautista is also the publisher of SunStar Baguio in partnership with SunStar Cebu and Pampanga.